As a trait, perfectionism is often framed as a great thing to aspire to. It means we care, that we’re willing to work and, that we won’t stop until everything is just so, right?
While, at least on the face of it, many of us are happy to admit that there is no such thing as the perfect life, it can still feel as though there is a lot of pressure to “perfect” certain areas of our lives. Our diets, for example, or our social media presence; maybe our fashion sense or music taste. And definitely our wedding days.
Confession: I got married this year, and it wasn’t the perfect day.
It was windy. Really windy. Prior to the main event, the bridesmaids had to go to a different location to me to get their makeup done, meaning we missed a lot of getting ready shots. We missed a lot of shots altogether, down to the aforementioned gale that was blowing, and just having too much of a good time.
My dress was a little on the tight side because I forgot to try it on, post alterations (who does that?!). My now-husband hadn’t had time to do his hair. We forgot the button holes. The decorations at the ceremony didn’t go quite to plan. Lots of our loved ones weren’t able to make it. We forgot to invite a few people, and had a load of people not able to make it, last minute.
It wasn’t the perfect day.
What it was? The best day! I got to marry my best friend, in a room full of people that we both love, many of whom had travelled a long way to be there, and spend a weekend eating, drinking and dancing with them, all in the name of love.
I’m not going to lie and pretend those little things haven’t at some point irked me, to a larger or smaller degree. But I’m not going to fixate on them. So it wasn’t “perfect” – so what? Life isn’t.
It can be so easy to focus on the details and miss the bigger picture. The prevalence of social media and sites like Pinterest mean we’re never too far away from seeing what someone else has done, what we “could” have done, and most of us (even subconsciously) compare ourselves to others as a result. We – and probably, brides especially – can end up feeling flat as a result of spending too long obsessing over trying to get things just so.
When we aim for perfect, often we get so fixated on it that anything less seems a failure.
And it applies to life, too.
When we aim for perfect, often we get so fixated on it that anything less seems a failure. Maybe we don’t complete an exercise challenge because we miss one or two sessions. Or we put off a creative project because we don’t think we’ll be as good as the idea we have in our heads.
Or maybe, we sabotage a perfectly good relationship, because we think it’s not quite there – doesn’t fit into our ideals of what a “perfect” relationship should be.
All we’re doing, in reality, is wasting precious time and energy worrying about living up to some imaginary ideal.
I’ve tried hard not to fall into this trap too often, but I have spent a bit of time in my life feeling this way. So, I got in touch with Kerry Lyons – designer, blogger and all round life sorter out-er, who kindly passed on some words of wisdom about the trappings of perfectionism.
Kerry is the founder of The Imperfect Life – a blog and coaching service aimed at helping us to take control of our lives by giving up on people pleasing, or trying to live the “perfect” life.
Here’s what she had to say. Oh, and she’s created a whole pile of brilliant free resources aimed at shifting your mindset to one that’s less fixated on perfection, and more open.
I’d been a perfectionist since day dot, and I used to wear it as a badge of honour, as if it was a positive trait to have, and almost brag about. It was only when I copped that it was actually holding me back, not helping me out, that I started to question how I’d been doing things my whole life.
Y’see I think reaching ‘perfection’ can only bring you a temporary flash of satisfaction. It’s almost like what I imagine the buzz of taking crack would be like; the momentary pleasure from seeing things all lined up, just so. The buzz of knowing something you created is as polished as physically possible. The rest of the time? You’re beating yourself to a pulp in pursuit of that. You’re pulling yourself apart in desperation for that one, momentary ‘hit’.
And that my friend is not good for you, and I want to share with you why.
Perfection isn’t good for you when you’re allowing absolutely no room in your life for mistakes.
Because you’re missing out on THE biggest opportunity for growth. By staying so tightly-knit in your narrow, perfect lane, you’re shutting yourself off from a world of chance, adventure, excitement, new stuff… the list is endless. And it’s a list you’ll never gift yourself with ever seeing.
Perfection isn’t good for you when things have to be done a certain way. Your way.
Because you’re shutting off any ideas that might actually be better/more effective/more fun than yours. And not only that, if others aren’t willing to slot into your ideas, you end up carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, doing it all by yourself. What a fun ol’ solitary place to exist in, right?
Perfection isn’t good for you when you’re a complete pro at procrastination.
Because anything that’s not done at 100% is just pointless, right? And with that, you halt any positive changes from ever entering your life – ‘cause when is 100% realistically achievable for the vast majority of us? It’s not. Instead, consider that it only takes 70% to gain a first class degree at university. Then just imagine if you lowered your standards to 70%, what kind of magic you could make in your life.
Perfection isn’t good for you when success is never enough for you.
When you live in constant pursuit of perfection, you never feel content with what you have
When you live in constant pursuit of perfection, you never feel content with what you have. You could’ve set yourself the craziest goal, achieved it, celebrated that fact, and then felt empty because it was done. What a barrel of laughs you are! And that’s because you find it near-on impossible to live in the moment; feeling gratitude for what you do have, instead of always focusing on what you don’t.
But what can be done? Thankfully, a lot! You’ve just gotta be willing to work harder at imperfecting, than you do at perfecting.
Kerry has created some awesome free tools that can help you with the exact issues you’re facing. You can just pick and choose, or go for all of ‘em!
- If you’re dying to cure your perfection and failure-fear, try my weekly mistake log.
- If you’d love to learn how to live in the moment a bit more, give my happiness bank a go.
- If you’re eternally crazy-busy, and would love some help making some space, try out my white-space maker.
- If you’re tired of making out everything’s great and perfect in your life, and you just crave some purpose and direction, enrol on my free 5-day mini-course.
Kerry Lyons is the founder of Kerry Lyons Co. and The Imperfect Life®. It’s her life’s work to help you totally boss your 20s and 30s, so head over and let her help you out!